A heart wrenching article “Girls for Sale” at the NYTimes discusses the lives of two prostitute slaves in Cambodia:

One thinks of slavery as an evil confined to musty sepia photographs. But there are 21st-century versions of slaves as well, girls like Srey Neth. I met Srey Neth, a lovely, giggly wisp of a teenager, here in the wild smuggling town of Poipet in northwestern Cambodia. Girls here are bought and sold, but there is an important difference compared with the 19th century: many of these modern slaves will be dead of AIDS by their 20’s.

…Srey Neth claimed to be 18 but looked several years younger. She insisted at first (through my Khmer interpreter) that she was free and not controlled by the guesthouse. But soon she told her real story: a female cousin had arranged her sale and taken her to the guesthouse. Now she was sharing a room with three other prostitutes, and they were all pimped to guests.

…Why not try to escape at night? “They would get me back, and something bad would happen. Maybe a beating. I heard that when a group of girls tried to escape, they locked them in the rooms and beat them up.” “What about the police?” I asked. “Couldn’t you call out to the police for help?” “The police wouldn’t help me because they get bribes from the brothel owners,” Srey Neth said, adding that senior police officials had come to the guesthouse for sex with her.

I asked Srey Neth how much it would cost to buy her freedom. She named an amount equivalent to $150. “Do you really want to leave?” I asked. “Are you sure you wouldn’t come back to this?” She had been watching TV and listlessly answering my questions. Now she turned abruptly and snorted. “This is a hell,” she said sharply, speaking with passion for the first time. “You think I want to do this?”

Read the full article here.

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